Righteousness Required (II Samuel 22:21-51)
Crying for a King
II Samuel 22:21-51
(One Lord: So Great a Salvation )
June 1st, 2014
As we turn to God's word this morning, let me remind you of how important our passage in terms of understanding the books of I and I Samuel. As we've talked about in previous weeks, chapters 21-24 of II Samuel represent a carefully constructed conclusion to the whole story of Samuel, Saul, and David. And as we learned, at the center of this conclusion we find two songs of David, the first is found in chapter 22, and the second (which is much short) is found at the beginning of chapter 23.
With this in mind, turn over and look with me at II Samuel 22, picking up in verse 21.
II. The Passage: “Blessed be My Rock” (22:21-51)
Now, if you were with us last time, you may recall that the first twenty verses of this song focused on how God's powerful deliverance was at work in David's life, and all throughout David's life. We talked about how David's faith in this God who protects, and hears, and thunders, and rescues, this was a faith that inspired gratefulness and praise as he saw God's saving power as a present reality, not just a relic of the past. With that in mind, let's dig into the final thirty verses of David's song.
A. He Give Blessing to the Righteous (22:21-28)
Look at what David tells us about God's deliverance. Starting in verse 21...
“The LORD dealt with me according to my righteousness; according to the cleanness of my hands he rewarded me.  For I have kept the ways of the LORD and have not wickedly departed from my God.  For all his rules were before me, and from his statutes I did not turn aside.  I was blameless before him, and I kept myself from guilt.  And the LORD has rewarded me according to my righteousness, according to my cleanness in his sight.  “With the merciful you show yourself merciful; with the blameless man you show yourself blameless;  with the purified you deal purely, and with the crooked you make yourself seem tortuous.  You save a humble people, but your eyes are on the haughty to bring them down.
Now, there is with this passage the distinct possibility that some of our feathers are going to be ruffled by David's confession. Do you know what I mean? For Bible-believing Christians, David sounds like a Pharisee! Look at him shamelessly trumpeting his “righteousness”, his “cleanness”, his “blameless[ness]”. How could God permit this kind of song to be included in his holy word? Isn't this glorifying, or at the least, condoning works-righteousness?
The answer of course is, “Absolutely not!”. First of all, David is not in any way arguing that he is perfect. Listen to how the 17th century commentator Matthew Henry described David's righteousness. He wrote, in saying this, David was confessing...
That he had carefully avoided the bye-paths of sin. He had not wickedly departed from his God. He could not say [he had not] had taken some false steps, but he had not deserted God, nor forsaken his way. Sins of infirmity he could not acquit himself from, but the grace of God had kept him from presumptuous sins. [(to repeat) He had not wickedly departed from his God...] Though he had sometimes weakly departed from his God. (Matthew Henry)
David's overall orientation for the vast majority of his life was God-centered. And because it was, he sought to keep God's law at all times.
Second, David's affirmation here is not ultimately about his own righteousness, but about God's faithfulness. David was an Israelite, and as an Israelite he lived under the covenant that God has given through Moses. David lived under the Law. And what did the Law teach? It taught God's people that if they would obey God, they would be blessed. But if they did not obey him, they would be cursed.
So what David is doing here is encouraging obedience to God, for He gives blessing to the righteous. He is saying, “Trust God! Follow his commands, even when it is hard, even when it is unpopular. God will take care of you. He will reward you. Look at me. Listen to my story.” Isn't that what David is affirming in verses 26-28? That God is reliable? That God will honor His covenant promises?
B. He Gives Power to the Righteous (22:2-29-33)
But notice how David goes on to explain his righteousness and God's faithfulness. Verses 29-33. He declares...
For you are my lamp, O LORD, and my God lightens my darkness.  For by you I can run against a troop, and by my God I can leap over a wall.  This God—his way is perfect; the word of the LORD proves true; he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him.  “For who is God, but the LORD? And who is a rock, except our God?  This God is my strong refuge and has made my way blameless.
It sure sounds like David is one of those “humble people” that he mentioned in verse 28. Why? Because he is ultimately giving all the credit to God. He is saying, “Without God, I am in the darkness. He is my lamp! Without God, I am exposed to danger. He is my shield! Without God and his word, I would have strayed off the path long ago. He has “made my way blameless”. David is not self-righteous. He knows where his heart of obedience comes from. He knows who that rock is underneath his feet, because David knows that God gives power to the righteous.
C. He Gives Victory to the Righteous (22:34-46)
And listen to how David goes on to describe God's deliverance. Listen to the ways in which God has rewarded him; more of the ways in which God has given him power. Verse 34...
He made my feet like the feet of a deer and set me secure on the heights.  He trains my hands for war, so that my arms can bend a bow of bronze.  You have given me the shield of your salvation, and your gentleness made me great.  You gave a wide place for my steps under me, and my feet did not slip;  I pursued my enemies and destroyed them, and did not turn back until they were consumed.  I consumed them; I thrust them through, so that they did not rise; they fell under my feet.  For you equipped me with strength for the battle; you made those who rise against me sink under me.  You made my enemies turn their backs to me, those who hated me, and I destroyed them.  They looked, but there was none to save; they cried to the LORD, but he did not answer them.  I beat them fine as the dust of the earth; I crushed them and stamped them down like the mire of the streets.  You delivered me from strife with my people; you kept me as the head of the nations; people whom I had not known served me.  Foreigners came cringing to me; as soon as they heard of me, they obeyed me.  Foreigners lost heart and came trembling out of their fortresses.
What does God do for the righteous, for those who love Him and walk according to His will? We see it here, don't we? He gives victory to the righteous. David wants to make it abundantly clear that all of his victories (and there were a lot of victories), all of them were really God's victories. It is God who upholds us, and equips us, and routs our enemies. As the leader of a nation, we know that David is not just boasting about his 'kills' as some kind of mercenary or 'soldier of fortune'. He is thankful for how God has decisively defeated those who threatened him and his people, God's people.
D. He Gives Songs to the Righteous (22:47-51)
You can tell just how amazed David is in light of what God has done. And that amazement erupts into praise in the closing verses of this song. Look at verse 47...
“The LORD lives, and blessed be my rock, and exalted be my God, the rock of my salvation,  the God who gave me vengeance and brought down peoples under me,  who brought me out from my enemies; you exalted me above those who rose against me; you delivered me from men of violence. For this I will praise you, O LORD, among the nations, and sing praises to your name.  Great salvation he brings to his king, and shows steadfast love to his anointed, to David and his offspring forever.”
The song ends in many ways like it began. Remember verses 3 and 4...my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge...you save me from violence.  I call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised, and I am saved from my enemies. (22:3-4)
What does God do? He gives songs to the righteous! His attributes and His actions inspire praise in His people. At least they should. David's heart is spilling out in praise and adoration of God, not only because of the victories given, but as we see from verse 51, because of the covenant love that was graciously given to David. That last word, “forever”, should point us back to II Samuel 7, where God made a covenant with David, promising that He would establish the throne of David's kingdom forever.
In light of this kind of deliverance, this protection, this favor, how could David not lift his voice in praise and worship?
III. A Righteousness Apart
But as encouraging and beautiful and moving as this song is, we still have to ask, “Why? Why is this song at the very center of the conclusion to the whole book?” Let me propose an answer to that question.
The author of Samuel wants to eagerly remind his readers that, in spite of some very notable failures, David was a righteous king who was blessed by God and thus brought the blessing of God to his people.
Since that word “righteous” is so important here, listen to how one Bible teacher explains that term...
We must then say the righteousness of God is evident in the way He consistently acts in accord with His own character. God always acts righteously; His every action is consistent with His character. God is always consistently “Godly.” God is not defined by the term “righteous,” as much as the term “righteous” is defined by God. God is not measured by the standard of righteousness; God sets the standard of righteousness. (Robert L. Deffinbaugh)
What does that mean for this passage? It means that God requires His king to act in accord with the standard that God himself has laid down, based on His own character. But why is that important for us today? David is not our king. Yes, but as we've talked about on many occasions, as the title of the entire series reminds, all of us are “crying for a king”. All of us desperately need leadership. All of us desperately need someone to fight for us, to deliver us from our enemies (like pride, bitterness, the devil, and in the end, death).
There are many kings and saviors to whom you could turn. There are so many peddled out there in the world, from politicians to pleasure to Prozac. But there is only one truly, perfectly RIGHTEOUS King. And because of His righteousness, He can and does bring the blessing of God to you and me.
In fact, the prophets after David spoke of his coming, in accordance with God's promise to David. Jeremiah declared...
“Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land.  In his days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely. And this is the name by which he will be called: ‘The LORD is our righteousness.’"(Jer. 23:5-6)
Why do we need this king? One of the things David is telling us here is that righteousness is required if we are to be right with God; if we are to know the sweet, sweet salvation of God. Righteousness is required. But we know from both the OT and the NT, we are not righteous. Romans 3:10.. “None is righteous, no, not one”. Even David knew that apart from God's grace, he could not be righteous in any sense of the word. But... but we can still know the blessing of God. How? Through this righteous king.
I want you to listen to the Apostle Paul as he trumpets the greatness of this “righteous Branch”, of the Messiah, the “anointed king” who was to come, and who had arrived in the person of Jesus. Paul writes this in Philippians 3. verses 8 and 9...
Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ  and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith... (Philippians 3:8-9)
Try as he might, Paul realized he could never truly be righteous through the Law of Moses. That doesn't wash out the idea that obedience brings great blessing from God. It is always better to obey. God is faithful to uphold those who obey His word. But we cannot truly obey apart from the grace of God. God cannot settle for anything but perfect righteousness. And if we cannot conform perfectly to His standard, then we are condemned.
But in Philippians 3, Paul testifies to a righteousness that comes, not from your performance, but through your faith in God's righteous king, Jesus Christ. You see, Jesus wants to cover you in His perfect righteousness, that you might know the full blessing of God, that you might know the power of God, the victory of God; that songs would rise up within you, songs of praise. Listen to how the 19th century preacher Charles Spurgeon expressed this...
“It will always give a Christian the greatest calm, quiet, ease, and peace, to think of the perfect righteousness of Christ. How often are the saints of God downcast and sad! I do not think they ought to be. I do not think they would if they could always see their perfection in Christ. There are some who are always talking about corruption, and the depravity of the heart, and the innate evil of the soul. This is quite true, but why not go a little further, and remember that we are perfect in Christ Jesus. It is no wonder that those who are dwelling upon their own corruption should wear such downcast looks; but surely if we call to mind that Christ is made unto us righteousness, we shall be of good cheer...Though distresses afflict me, though Satan assault me, though there may be many things to be experienced before I get to heaven, those are done for me in the covenant of divine grace; there is nothing wanting in my Lord; Christ hath done it all. On the cross he said, It is finished! and if it be finished, then am I complete in him, and can rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith. You will not find on this side heaven a holier people than those who receive into their hearts the doctrine of Christ's righteousness. When the believer says, I live on Christ alone; I rest on him solely for salvation; and I believe that, however unworthy, I am still saved in Jesus; then there rises up as a motive of gratitude this thought--Shall I not live to Christ? Shall I not love him and serve him, seeing that I am saved by his merits?”
This song of David was one, just one, way in which God prepared His people for the coming of Jesus by helping them to see their desperate need for a righteous king, one who could lead them into the blessing of God. Do you know Him? Are you looking to Him? Are you glad you have a righteous King this morning? Does this righteousness put songs in your heart and mouth? Does it give you, as Spurgeon talked about, “the greatest calm, quiet, ease, and peace”?
“The LORD lives, and blessed be my rock, and exalted be my God, the rock of my salvation...For this I will praise you, O LORD, among the nations, and sing praises to your name." Let's go with praises in light of our righteous king.
other sermons in this series